Fringe Review

Based on Jean Giono’s environmental classic,Richard Medrington and Rick Conte bring to life the charming story with puppets and narration. Both are adept performers with personality and ease onstage, ad libbing spontaneously during their lively banter, when setting up the story at the beginning.

A set of several large pieces and artistic shapes, covered in natural coloured hessian is centre stage. A very friendly dog with a welcoming waggy tail arrives and interacts verbally with the performers. Medrington is mainly the narrator and Conte is the puppeteer. Both performers have an excellent rapport together that’s warm and witty and the flow of the story is seamless. Medrington’s voice is very compelling to listen to when he narrates combined with his expressive facial expressions when he speaks directly to the audience.

The story begins with a windy plain and wild lavender. A shepherd puppet arrives – he is exquisite with a hewn face that’s weathered. He’s a hard working character and meets Jean, played by Medrington. Conte works with the puppet beautifully, with subtle hand gestures that are noted by the audience. The action is accompanied at times by lovely music underscoring the narration and dialogue with Jean and the shepherd.

The ever-present dog is simply delightful, he is a character who tells jokes to Conte, speaks in puns and generally has a good time (so do we watching his every move!). This puppet holds the attention of everyone in the audience and Conte reacts quickly changing the pace of the show through the dog character’s attitude, its non-verbal expressions or verbal quips.

The story is very timely with its brief references to the 1914-18 and second world wars. Therefore, there are phrases spoken in French by Jean as well as an upbeat descriptive song in French, which adds depth and dimension to the story.

An important eco element of the story enlightens and informs when we see the shepherd planting acorns, which produce forests, support insects and wildlife. It is not always easy to do these things and of course there are challenges along the way such as from government representatives. However, the story takes its course and life continues. This is a charming, imaginative entertaining storytelling and puppetry show, extremely well performed. It’s also a thoughtful moving story, with a noble message – plus a few surprises! Recommended!!